Memories of Taylor Pond July 2016

By Joan Macri July 2016

Life on Taylor Pond has been a treasured experience for generations. Efforts have been made in the past to chronicle this history, most notably in the book Now and Then at Taylor Pondby Helen Andrews in 1986. That was 40 years ago and much has changedbut much has remained the same. While many more homes are year-round, they remain family-focused and more often than not, multi-generational. The Taylor Pond Association is interested in collecting stories and memories from people who have spent many years on the pond in order to hold on to that history. If you have some memories to share, please contact Joan Macri at [email protected].

Nancy Weber has been spending her summers on Taylor Pond since 1949. In the 1930s her grandmother, Bertha Rattigan, and her four siblings each bought camps next to one another on what is now Taywood Road. Descendants still occupy 4 of the original homes.

Nancy recalls that her grandmothers passion was to be at Taylor Pond as early in the spring and as late in the fall as possible. Bertha was a determined woman so she made it happen despite working as a weaver at the Bates Mill and walking to and from the mill each day. That is approximately 12 miles round trip and this was before the buses made pick-ups at the intersection of Park Avenue and Lake Street. No wonder she lived to be 91!

Nancy remembers her grandmothers cottage well. No heat, no electricity, no running water, no fireplace. A wood stove to cook on, heat water and make the best toast everby just placing the bread on top of the stove. Everyone washed up in the pond using little wire cages with bits of soap in them to create a lather, brushing your teeth and spitting from the steps. Ivory soap was the preferred choice because it floated.

With no running water, rain barrels were used to capture water for washing dishes and the entire family would drive to the Spring Road in Auburn with gallon jugs to fill from the natural spring so they would have drinking water for the week.

There was no garbage service so people burned what little trash they created or buried it. Years later, Nancy was working in her garden and discovered lots of buried glass bottles.

People had outhouses back then. Rather than awful, Nancy thought her grandmother’s was “inspirational.” It was papered with old calendars’ scenic sites across the country, such as the Grand Canyon and Pike’s Peak. And yes, it was a one-holer.

Favorite summer memories include:

  • using a path through the woods to Black’s Store (the small pointed roof building at the intersection of Hotel and Lake Street) for popsicles,
  • a single bed metal coil box spring hammocked between two pines with a thin pallet on top and a Bates coverlet. “You could just lie there and hear the hum of the pines, feel the air, smell it”
  • an owl that came every summer and a very large turtle that is still around
  • going to see a water ballet performance at Simpson’s Beach where they had spotlights focused on the synchronized swimmers.—quite a sight for her 5 year old eyes
  • spending time with all her many relatives,
  • the clarity and coolness of the water

Peter Durgin has been coming Taylor Pond since he started dating Judy Pontbriand in the 1950s. Her father Bert built a home in the 1950s and his family was the first to live year-round on East Shore Road. Peter eventually built a year-round house next door to the Pontbriands in 1984.

Peter remembers the days when there were no shooting restrictions in Auburn and people duck- hunted on the pond. It was not at all unusual for people to shoot ground hogs who were dining on their gardens. The fishing was terrific and the pond contained many different types of fish: pike, large and small mouth bass, white and yellow perch, pickerel, brown trout, and splake, a hybrid of a brook trout and a lake trout that does not reproduce.

Both Peter and Nancy noted the increase in population of people and watercraft over the yearsbut agree that the ponds water quality has remained excellent. According to Peter, people are doing a great job of protecting the lake from chemicals even with the population growth.But he would like to see people slow down on the roads. He believes people unintentionally damage the pond by driving too fast on the roads. The roads, largely dirt and gravel, develop pot holes and hummocks in the center. Water cant easily run off, the dirt and gravel get carried to the wetlands and then the pond, not an ideal situation. Even where no speed limit is posted, 10 MPH is the recommended speed.

As always, it is in everyones best interest to protect the pond so that our children, grandchildren, and all those who come after us can enjoy its natural beauty and the role it plays in making our lives better. Just as Nancy and Peter treasure their memories of life on Taylor Pond, we hope that our children and grandchildren will be able to do the same.


Winter on Taylor Pond July 2016

By Joan Macri July 2016

Over the years many people have enjoyed ice sailing. Nothing quite beats sailing across the ice with the wind at your back! Peter Garcia of West Shore Road has had a sail boat for many years and in approximately 2004, TJ Thayer took it for a spin.

Well into the 1950’s many scores of local men earned money in the winter by harvesting ice. Wesley Urquhart lived on the west side of the pond and had an ice operation. The ice would be cut into huge slabs, often more than 20 inches thick, floated in channels that had been cleared to the “haul way” where they would be pulled ashore and stored in hay in an ice house. When Peter Durgin bought his property on Waterview Road from Sumner Peck, he found debris from the ice operation including lumber, chains, belts, and pull-ups. If you boat near the edge of the property, you can still see the 12” square wooden stanchions filled with rocks that marked the entrance to the haul way. The ice was used in ice boxes throughout the community. Prices probably varied from 15 to 60 cents depending upon supply and demand as evidenced by the sign Peter Durgin discovered in the old Lake Auburn Ice Company when he was a teenager.

Winter on the pond is always special. The colder is gets, the more still the air becomes. Sheeted in crystal and white, it is a lovely image to hold onto for those hot sun-filled days of summer!

The Return of Salmon to Taylor Pond? Not Soon. July 2016

By Dana Little July 2016

NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) has recently identified eight species of wildlife as being most at risk for extinction. The Atlantic Salmon of the Gulf of Maine is on that list. Fisheries biologists agree that one of the most effective ways to restore salmon to their native habitat is the removal of dams or with the use of fish ladders to bypass dams. The US Fish and Wildlife Service describes the Little Androscoggin River as providing “the best opportunities for Atlantic Salmon spawning and rearing”.

A salmon spends the first half of its life, one to four years, in freshwater rivers and streams and then migrates to the ocean to mature and fatten up. After one to four years in the ocean salmon return to their waters of origin to lay their eggs. Scientists have discovered that they use their keen sense of smell to find their birthplace; only 5% of fish travel up the wrong river.

Salmon once swam abundantly in the waters of the Androscoggin River all the way up to Rumford Falls. Because Taylor Pond drains into Taylor Brook, which feeds into the Little Androscoggin River and from there into the Androscoggin River, at one time salmon likely travelled through our pond and spawned in local brooks. A 1673 a commercial fishing operation at Pejepscot Falls in Brunswick preserved 40 barrels of salmon and would have taken more fish but they had no more salt in which to preserve them for export. In 1793 an Abenaki Native American, Perepole, described the Androscoggin River. In reference to the falls in Rumford, he claimed “the Indians used to catch the most salmon at the foot of them falls”.

By the early 1800s, mill dams illegally constructed on the Androscoggin River destroyed the great fish runs. The last Atlantic Salmon on the river was seen in 1816 at Great Falls in Lewiston. Despite petitions to restore the fish runs, the Maine Legislature refused to enforce existing laws requiring fish passage around the Androscoggin’s dams. In the early 1900s large pulp and paper mills were built upriver and dumped large amounts of pollutants into the water. In addition, towns along the river dumped raw sewage, contaminating the water.  By the 1960s the Androscoggin was one of the most polluted American rivers. Today, pollution has been markedly reduced and water quality in the Androscoggin is capable of supporting a healthy salmon population. However, the dams continue to block fish passage.

Under the Endangered Species Act the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USF&WS) develops a recovery plan for each species in danger of extinction. This March the USF&WS submitted a draft recovery plan for the subpopulation of Atlantic Salmon unique to the Gulf of Maine. The estimated total cost for this plan is a third of a billion dollars with expenses spread out over the next 75 years. No money has been raised for this plan; funding occurs through smaller federal grants aimed at more achievable objectives such as fish passage around certain dams.The recovery plan itself is an overall description of goals, methods and ways to measure outcomes.

 For a salmon to travel from the ocean to Taylor Pond it would need to ascend the Androscoggin Dam in Brunswick, the Pejepscot and Worumbo Dams on the Androscoggin River, the Lower and Upper Barker Mill Dams on the Little Androscoggin River, and finally the dam at Dag’s Bait Shop and Kendall’s dam on Taylor Brook.  Although the fish ladders at the Androscoggin, Pejepscot and Worumbo dams have existed for years, salmon have not been observed above the Brunswick dam.  The alewife, a smaller fish, has also been unable to significantly traverse these barriers.  Annually, the Department of Marine Resources catches alewives at the Androscoggin Dam and distributes them to many ponds that drain into the Androscoggin River, including about 3,800 fish to Taylor Pond.  

Sean McDermott of NOAA, based in Gloucester, MA, recently contacted Taylor Pond Association for help in obtaining a grant to study the creation of a fish passage for alewives around the Lower Barker Mill Dam on the Little Androscoggin River.  The process to relicense this dam began in 2014 and will be completed in 2019.  The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) requires any dam to minimize harm to the environment.  Because of intense competition for limited funds, Sean’s grant was not funded, making the free passage of salmon and other fish from the ocean to Taylor Pond for now a dream, not a reality.  Under the Endangered Species Act we may still see funding to restore this unique subspecies of Atlantic Salmon to the Taylor Pond watershed.  The Department of Marine Resources (DMR) continues to work to allow fish to freely travel the Androscoggin River.  Dan Kircheis of the DMR believes that “There is a lot of potential to the Androscoggin” [for salmon].  The fact that a few salmon continue to show up year after year at the Brunswick fish ladder demonstrates their resilience and the possibility that someday they may once again be seen in Taylor Pond.